Giraffes pulling silly faces

Giraffes pulling silly faces

I’ve been working up in Brisbane a lot recently, and at the start of August got to spend a weekend there. Rather than hang around the city, I decided to go for a mini adventure up the Sunshine Coast.

I hired a car from the pace conveniently right next to my hotel and headed up the coast on Saturday morning. On my adventure I went to Australia Zoo, saw the Big Pineapple, stayed in Noosa Heads and headed back down the coast via the Ettamogah Pub and Glasshouse mountains.

Australia Zoo is the Steve Irwin zoo. There’s a lot of crocodiles, conservation messages and  ‘Crocoseum’ where that have a daily show with lots of birds (and crocs). ‘Crikey!’ Animal wise its pretty similar to Taronga, but with less variety and no harbour views. There weren’t any penguins.  My favourite animals of the visit were the tigers. They had two, and while I was there a man was feeding them (grass) and being filmed for a TV show. The tigers were eating out of his hand, getting patted on the head just like giant cats and they played together cheekily.

Big croc - Crikey!

Big croc – Crikey!

Big cat

Big cat

Australia has a lot of ‘big’ things. The Sunshine Coast grows a lot of tropical fruit, so it of course has a big pineapple. I went to see the pineapple. Sadly it was shut so you cant go inside any more and none of the shops there were open. There were people with vans selling fruit but I didn’t really want a whole pineapple to myself! It was worth a look as it was on my route, but I wouldn’t go out the way to see it.

The Big Pineapple

The Big Pineapple

On Saturday night I stayed in Noosa Heads. Its a pretty beach resort type place, which was surprisingly busy in winder, so probably rammed in the summer. I took a walk up to the lookout in the early evening. When I got to the viewpoint at the top, most people were actually looking the other way. It turned out there was a koala in the tree watching the sun go down too whilst having his eucalyptus dinner. Awww! 🙂

I made it back down the hill to the beach for the last of the sunset, and saw a dolphin swimming in the sea quite close to the beach. The up and down movement of its fin convinced me and the other spectators it was a dolphin rather than a s-h-a-r-k.

Wild koala at Noosa Heads

Wild koala at Noosa Heads

That evening I had some dinner at one of the well known Hogs Breath Cafe chains. My steak was OK, but I am a fan of rare which they don’t do because they slow cook them for 24 hours so they come out medium rare. It was a good texture, but my meal was fairly cold, with undercooked curly fries. I’ll probably need to give another branch a try.

The next day I headed back down the coast and went for some lunch at the Ettamogah Pub. Its a pub on the main Bruce Highway, which was built based on a pub from a cartoon strip dating back to 1959. It looks like a caricature and is very high, with massive beams inside from the trees they felled to make space for it. Ettamogah is Aboriginal for ‘ a good place to drink’. I had some nice squid and admired the cartoons on the walls. You can read more about the pub here. 

Ettamogah Pub

Ettamogah Pub

Between there and Brisbane I went to some lookouts and short walks to check out the Glasshouse Mountains. These are really very cool! Rather than being a mountain range they are 11 of spread out peaks which are plugs from extinct volcanoes. They were named by Captain Cook in 1770 becasue they reminded him of glass furnaces in Yorkshire. I really liked how they stood out from the flat and low coastal plain around them. I didn’t get to walk up any as the two I visited had tracks closed due to rockfalls, but seeing them was very cool.

 

Glasshouse mountain

Glasshouse mountain

Glasshouse mountains

Glasshouse mountains

Taronga zoo in Sydney is great. You can go there on a ferry, ride a cable car and it has great views over the city, not to mention lots of cool animals to see. I wrote about it here.

They have a sister zoo, Dubbo Western Plains. It’s 5-6 hours drive west of Sydney, past the Blue mountains, on the edge of the outback. We headed out there one weekend in June, setting off on Friday after work, and stayed in a cabin In a caravan park. As it’s winter and inland it gets to low single digits at night, so camping wasn’t on my agenda! On the drive out we hit 1 degree, and it was 3 degrees in Dubbo by the time we got there.

You can stay in the zoo itself, which includes some additional animal tours. It’s very expensive though, so it decided it was better to save money for another stuffed animal for my collection! We stayed in a cabin in Dubbo, which was 70’s retro and

I love animals, so needless to say I enjoyed the zoo. We had bacon and eggs for breakfast there looking at the lemurs on an island in the lake.

had a massive fan heater bolted to the wall. It did heat the place up nicely, until you turned it off!

The zoo is really more like a safari park. The main route around is 6km, and you can hire bikes to cycle it, or a golf cart! Needless to say we went for the active bike option. I managed to cycle around without any accidents, just one near miss with a kid running at me on a narrow path whilst looking behind him. I shouted at him! You only ever ride for a little while, then stop and go and see the animals. Its the same if you drive – rather than being like Longleat you need to park and get out to see the animals. The ticket is valid for two days, so you can go back the next day if you’re really keen.

By fluke we managed to time our route around to see feeding time with the hippo (called Happy), elephant (called Cuddles) and the Siamang apes. They were all very cool, and the apes were really noisy – it sounded like they were signing a song and were great to watch. Near the end it started to rain, but we managed not to get too wet. Here’s a load of pictures of cute things!

DubboMeerkats

DubboHippo2

DubboHippo

DubboElephant

DubboSiamangs

DobboRhino

DubboTiger

DubboKoala

 

 

 

Port Stephens

Port Stephens

Back in late February we made a last minute decision to get out of Sydney for the weekend (at 7pm on Friday). I was put on the spot a bit, and came up with the idea of Port Stephens, about 2.5 hours up the coast, which I’d heard good things about.

Luckily I managed to convince Matt we should get a cheap motel rather than camp, as it was meant to be a super wet weekend. We set off on Saturday morning and the weather was terrible! The wipers were working flat out, and I was cursing Matt for saying he missed overcast damp days!

Port Stephens is actually a habour rather than a place. It was named by Captain Cook when he passed by in 1770. Here are some of the highlights from the weekend:

Tomaree lookout: We walked a kilometre or so up a steep hill to the lookout over the bay and the view was excellent. There are lots of little islands, nice sandy beaches and hills that run down into the sea. One of the islands has penguins living on it, so I’ve pencilled that in for a bat trip or kayak adventure!

Tomaree Lookout

Tomaree Lookout

Tea Gardens: The place we stayed was a small town called Tea Gardens. We arrived too late for high tea, but got a famous fish cone dinner at the pub instead (a bargain for $10), followed by some ice cream sundaes and chocolate fudge cake.  

Wildlife potential: The area had good wildlife potential with a koala reserve down the road from our motel and lots of koalas in the general area and some dolphins who come up the river to feed in the mornings. Unfortunately we didn’t manage to spot any exciting wildlife beyond a lot of giant pelicans, but it was nice knowing it might be around!

Myall Lakes NP: On Sunday we drove back via the Myall Lakes NP and went on a chain ferry across the lake. It was scenic with a giant lake on one side of the road and big dines and the sea on the other.

Giant sand dunes: We went to the edge of the giant sand dunes on the Worimi Conservation lands. According to the guide book they are the ‘longest moving sand dunes in the southern hemisphere’ and stretch over 35km. I’m not sure how they define it, as really all sand dunes move, but anyway it looked cool. You can go on 4×4 rides, try sand boarding and ride a camel! It was a soggy day so we added that to the to do list for another time.  

Camels!

Camels!

There were lots of tourist activities in the area including Putt Putt (mini golf), a shark and stingray centre, a toboggan run, an aviation museum and plenty of things involving driving through or boarding down sand dunes. It would be a good fun place to spend another weekend when the weathers a bit better!

Our kayak

Our kayak

In March we finally got around to hiring a kayak and going for a paddle on the Harbour.

We got a duo (for two people) and of course Matt got the back seat so he could control the steering with the rudder and encourage me periodically by saying “Keep paddling Elly”!

We rented it from Spit Bridge, which is in the Middle Harbour. Its quieter up there as the main Harbour gets really busy with lots of boats and can be quite choppy too. We went for the 5+ hours option, and started about 9.30am. The rental company had a pretty laid back Australian attitude. They gave us a map, but nobody asked us if we had paddled before or had any idea what we were doing. We paddled until about 3.30pm which turned out to be pretty hard work! We were both knackered by the end and very achey the next day.

Captian Matt

Captian Matt

There were a lot of pretty fancy yachts and sailing boats around, as well as some houses with seriously good views and water access. We saw a lot of fish and birds, and luckily no sharks! We did practice some ultra fast paddling a few times, in case we needed to escape in a hurry! We paddled around lots of little coves, some of them quite peaceful as they were too shallow for the big boats. We went up to some Mangroves and stopped a couple of times for a Tim Tam snack in a picnic area at a wharf, lunch on the beach and then  a final stop for an ice cream before dropping the boat back off. 

Me and my kayaking hat

Me and my kayaking hat

The boat people warned us about some winds expected in the afternoon, and sure enough they came. We got off the water about 9- minutes before a giant thunder storm which was good timing. The weather the next day was pretty wet, so we did well with our choice of day.

It was a good day out and I’d be keen to paddle some other bits of the Harbour or other places in future as its a good way to see things and get some exercise too. It felt cooler on the water compared to when we got off it. Next time though maybe we wont try and go quite so far!

 

Fancy houses

Fancy houses

17. May 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Reviews · Tags: ,
Crab woven from fishing net

Crab woven from fishing net

We’ve been meaning to check out the Australian Museum for a while. Its the oldest museum in Australia and opened back in about 1855. Entry was $15 each, and we spent over 2 hours wandering about, so pretty good value.

They have temporary and permanent exhibits. The temporary one was on the T-Rex, but as the main museum had a dinosaur section anyway, it didn’t seem particularity Australian, and was full of noisy children we passed on the extra $9 to go and see that.

Some of my favourite exhibits were:

Indigenous Australians: The museum starts with an exhibit about Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islanders which was interesting and informative with a lot of information about historic racism during and since colonisation. There was also a lighter side with lots of animal sculptures and artworks made by indigenous people. I particularity liked the giant fish and crab sewn from old fishing nets. 

Chapman Mineral Collection: This was a big collection of shiny rocks and gemstones. There were easily several hundred there, and they were generally very pretty and shiny!

Crocoite (from Tasmania)

Crocoite (from Tasmania)

Surviving Australia: This exhibit had information on lots of venomous and deadly animals and some live creatures too. I learnt about a crazy kind of venomous shell which you shouldn’t pick up!

Birds and Insects: There was a big room full of several hundred stuffed native birds. It was interesting to see all the different ones in one big collection. I liked th colourful parrots and cockatoos as well as some of the big birds like the pelican, emu and albatross.

Skeletons and dinosaurs: There was a room full of skeletons including different kinds of animals and a skeleton rider on a skeleton horse. There was a separate exhibit all about dinosaurs too, which was good if slightly overrun with children!

The museum was a good way to spend half a day, and was certainly jam packed full of more information than you could possibly take in.

Creepy skeletons

Creepy skeletons

 

Stalagtites

Stalagtites

In January we had a long weekend for the Australia Day Bank Holiday. We spent it up in the Blue Mountains and had an awesome sheep roast with some friends on the Saturday. On the Sunday we went to visit the Jeonlan Caves, which have been on to the To Do list for a while. Thy’re about an hour west of Blackheath up in the Blue Mountains and there are about 12-15 different caves which you can visit there (all for a few of course). You can read more about them here.

Cave curtain

Cave curtain

We picked out the River Cave as its one with smaller groups and I liked the sound of the underwater River Styx and reflective pools. We’ve been to a few caves before, including recently Hastings Cave in Tasmania (see here) but I’ve not seen one with a big river in so decided to go for something different. The tour was 2 hours for $42 and is labelled as the most strenuous with over 1200 steps!

Twisty cave feature

Twisty cave feature

Before we even got on the tour the drive into the caves was cool, with the entrance including driving through a massive cavern. We were a bit early so went for a walk along the outside lake first, which was very blue becasue of all the suspended limestone particles. We also saw my firsty wild deadly red-bellied back snake. It was on a path which you could easily avoid and marked with this helpful warning sign! (Alight, so I’ll admit I walked along it when there was no snake there, and then when we came back via the higher path about 20 minutes later, there was Mr Snakey. Had the sign said it was a deadly one I might not have gone there!)

Snaaaaaaaaake

Snaaaaaaaaake

Anyway, onto the tour. Our guide was called Sam, was very friendly and took a pretty relaxed approach to the tour which ended up taking about 2 hours 20 minutes so we got some extra value for money in! There were probably about 25 of us on it and the tour included part of the popular Lucas Cave too. Some of the formations in the caves were very cool, particularly the large curtains, stalagmites and stalactites with sparkly crystals in which were very pretty and of course the pool of reflections. The water was so clear and still you could see in the pool really well, it was super reflective and it was in a big cavern all of its own with a walkway along the side. Also we didn’t end up accidentally in Hades, which is always a bonus!

Pool of Reflections

Pool of Reflections

We will probably go back to see some of the other caves which only take groups of 8. The Orient Cave is the oldest in the world (I think) and the Temple of Baal is meant to be very good too. With our tickets we get half price on all other cave trips for a year too and we’re bound to be back int he area for some climbing sooner or later.  

Rock wallaby actually on a rock

Rock wallaby actually on a rock

 

Tasmanian Devil

Tasmanian Devil

Day 10: Hobart to Fortescue Bay
2506km, 41 hours 49 min

On the drive to Fortescue bay we passed through Sorrel which is a big fruit producing region. Having missed out on this in the Huon valley we decided to swing by a fruit farm for some weird sounding berries. When we got there the business model didn’t really stack up for us. We only wanted a small amount as we had no real way to keep stuff properly cool no just wanted a taster really. It was $14 per person including a giant punnet of whatever you picked, and there was no negotiation on sharing. We decided to give the picking a miss and bought $6 worth of cherries and strawberries from fruit market down the road instead which was more than enough.

After that we headed for the Tasmanian Devil Conservation Centre on the Tasman peninsula. Sadly a lot of the devils are affected by a facial tumour disease like cancer (TFTD) and population numbers have really fallen in the last. 20 years. It’s really contagious, fatal and they spread it easily when feeding, mating and generally interacting with each other. As the peninsula is only joined into mainland TasmanIa with a 100m wide stretch of land (Eaglehawk Neck), the centre are doing a lot of work to keep out infected devils and contain a healthy population on the peninsular which seems to be working. The centre is mainly conservation focused and also included some birds, kangaroos, an albino possum and an awesome talking parrot (helllloooow!).

I’d only seen a Tasmanian devil before at the Australian reptile park north of Sydney and although that one got fed, it was by itself. When there two together they are pretty different and more like the cartoon! The pair we saw first were chasing each other around their enclosure pretty much continuously like right little rascals with a fair amount of grumpiness and teeth baring to boot. They had a proper tug of war over their lunch! They were really nice to see and pretty cute when they were trotting around in the sun being friendly!

Tasmanian Devil

Tasmanian Devil

Devil lunchtime

Devil lunchtime

 

We camped at Fortescue Bay, a bargainous $13 a night. The site was 12km down a gravel road right on the bay, just setback from the beach in the trees. The camp itself was fairly basic with two female loos, a shower which sort of got hot if you had a token and a BBQ in the day use area next door. Before our veggie burger BBQ dinner that night we went to see some local geology including the remarkable cave (not that exciting!), blowhole, Tasman arch and Devils kitchen, which were all cool coastal features.

Day 11: Port Arthur and Totem Pole
2723km, 46 hours 6 mins

I made the effort for an early start the next day so we could fit in both the Port Arthur historic site and the 4 hour walk to Cape Huay where the candlestick and totem pole climbing areas are.

From the mid 1800s some of the worst convicts from the UK and the rest of the Commonwealth were sent to Australia. Of those, the worst were sent to Tasmania (or as it was called then, Van Diemens Land). Of these bad guys, the seriously bad bad guys ended up at Port Arthur. It even included a boys prison for kids as young as 9. For $33 we got the basic bronze pass which included day entry to the site, a 20 min boat ride past the boys prison (on its own island) and the Isle of the Dead where the buried convoys are, and a 40 minute guided walking tour. This was pretty good value as the site is big and there’s a lot to see. You could easily spend a whole day looking around all the old buildings which included the penitentiary, governors house, church, asylum and separate prison which was added later. The site had a couple of big fires in its history and was neglected for a while, so only about 1/3 of the buildings remain. A lot of them had exhibits inside to look at which were interesting and it was nice to see some history as there’s not always a lot of old stuff here in Oz. The prison focused mainly on seriously hard graft, education and religion at first. Later on when the separate prison was added the focus moved to confinement. Men were kept in their cells 23 hours a day in silence, doing work like making shoes. They had one hour exercise each day, again in isolated separate yards. We saw the punishment cells where they could be kept for up to a month for talking or doing anything else wrong – these were about 2m by 3m, had 1m thick stone walls so they were totally sound proof and 4 doors to get in so they were also totally dark. Lots of men broke here and hence they ended up building the asylum next door! After just a short time with the door shut I can see how it would be deeply disturbing!

Port Arthur

Port Arthur

Eventually the prisonwas shut down, the site abandoned and Van Diemens land was renamed Tasmania to try and break free from its convict past. Of course when they realised the tourism potential it opened back up again!

After some lunch we headed back to the campsite for the walk to Cape Huay including the Totem Pole and Candlestick (sea stacks) which both have climbing on. Matt had been reading a book about these from the library and was very keen to see them first hand. The first half of the walk was mainly bush! with good coastal views for the second half. We saw some climbers on the candlestick and Matt scrambled down for a better look (which did have me pretty worried when he didn’t come back for over 40 minutes – grrrr!).

Climber leaving the Candle Stick (left), past the Totem Pole (centre)

Climber leaving the Candle Stick (left), past the Totem Pole (centre)

As it was New Years Eve we broke open our $50 super tasty 1996 Cabernet Sauvignon for the Hunter Valley with dinner. Then we couldn’t resist a free guided spotlight tour run by the national park staff which promised night sightings of animals including penguins! Our guide was very knowledgeable and we were lucky enough to see a group of about 20 little penguins (also called fairy penguins or blue penguins) head up the beach to the their burrows, as well as some smaller groups and one penguin in its Ernest right by the path. It was very strange to see them hopping over rocks and then nesting in grassy areas, I still can’t get over thinking penguins need to live in ice!

We spent longer than planned watching the penguins (which was totally worth it), so by the time we got back it was a bit dark and cold to be getting on with the wine and we didn’t make it awake until midnight!

Exciting news – we have a new page on our website!

On our fridge, and in more detail in my head, we have a To Do List. It’s not one of those boring ones about hoovering and chores though, but about all the places to go and things to do while we’re over here in Australia. We’ve added the new page to share it with you and you’re more than welcome to give us ideas too! I’ve also summarised what we have done so far with handy links in case you want to know about something in particular.

You can get to it by clicking the button under the main picture called To Do List (to the right of Home) or by clicking HERE.

koalawild

I was so excited recently by seeing wild koalas, I thought they really deserved their own post!

We went on holiday with Phil and Rhiannon from the UK along the Great Ocean Road which is west of Melbourne in Victoria. You can read more about that here. On our first night we stayed in a cabin in the Great Otway National Park at a place balled ‘Bimbi Park – Camping Under Koalas’. For me, the name was a give away that there might be some exciting wildlife around!

On the drive we stopped near the Kennet River for some initial koala spotting. After a few minutes Matt won with the first sighting.

Now, koalas sleep for over 20 hours a day, so generally they’re spotted as round balls of cute fur nestled in the joins of branches in Eucalyptus (Gum) trees. They blend in well with the tree colour. Seeing them awake is fairly unusual, even at the zoo. In the Kennet area we managed to spot 9 koalas, including a few awake ones and one going for a walk along the forest floor – I did have to be restrained (= warned about snakes and spiders) as I excitingly bush bashed my way through the undergrowth for a closer look!

That morning the friendly checkout lady at the supermarket where we got our obligatory road trip supplies (including TimTams) informed us that koalas are actually really noisy, especially at night and make a very deep noise. In the Kennet area we got our first proof of this, and the noise was terrible. Its a low grunting / neighing noise, that you might expect to come from something like a big bear, gorilla or distressed horse. At first it sounded like they were deeply unhappy, but it seemed to be their normal call.

The road to the Bimbi Park campsite was full of more koalas. After checking in, we went for a walk and got in a koalas count of over 30 in the end! Seeing them in the wild was awesome. Around the Otway a lot more of them were awake and eating or wandering about, some of them quite close to us and seemingly not too bothered. Some of them had gone quite far out in the trees into some quite small and bendy branches in search of yummy leaves. We saw a mum and baby too – super cute.

Unfortunately the Otway area is actually becoming overpopulated with koalas. While this is good for spotting them its not good for their food supply which is fast running out or for their survival. The locals and the Government are working together on a relocation program and on some bush burning to regenerate the trees and bulk the food supply back up. Hopefully this will be successful. We did see some migrating sitting in the road! Looks like they’re getting the message to move, but hopefully they’ll learn sitting in the road isn’t a good plan!

Awwwwwwwwwwwwwww!

2koalas

In early December we were luck to have our good friends Phil and Rhainnon visit from the UK. They stayed with us for a few nights in Sydney and then we hijacked the next part of their holiday! We flew together from Sydney down to Melbourne and spent 5 excellent days driving along the Great Ocean Road, checking out the Grampian Mountains and spending time in Marvelous Melbourne.

The Great Ocean Road is fantastic. I can easily see why its meant to be one of the best drives in the world. It stretches for about 240km from a place names Torquay in the east to Warrnambool in the west. The road was built by ex-servicemen from World War 1 to help them reintegrate. You can read more about it here. Our new website cover picture is of the road.

Kookaburra

Kookaburra

We drove the road over 2 days, stopping in Cape Otway National Park overnight, which is koala central! (More on that coming soon). The scenery on the drive is spectacular and the windy coastal road makes for an awesome drive. There are masses of viewpoints, places to stop for an ice cream or other refreshment and walks which range from short to multi-day (in fact you can walk  most of the route if you’re that way included).

There are so many things to see and do, taking the trip over two days was certainly a good call, and you could easily spend longer doing it.

Here are some of the many highlights.

Seeing wild koalas and camping with them in Cape Otway National Park. We spotted over 30 in total. I’ll do a whole other post on them!

Many spectacular beaches with rolling hills behind and a nice windy road along the front. The sea was very blue and had good surf in some places too. There were a fair few picturesque lighthouses too, including the one from Going Round the Twist (80s kids TV) which we visited.

12 Apostles

12 Apostles

The 12 Apostles sea stacks (although there are only actually about 9). Not only were the stacks themselves great, the water and sky were both soooo blue it looked really idyllic.

Wild emus, koalas and kangaroos at Tower Hill, a cool ancient volcano. We also saw a Copper Head snake here, although it was far away from us on a board walk.

Wild emu

Wild emu

‘London Bridge’ arch. It used to be a double arch connected to the mainland, but it fell down one stormy day and left two people stranded on it who had to be rescued by helicopter!

Grampian mountains – we walked up Mount William for some awesome views and went to many other lookouts with good walks and equally good views. The B and B we stayed in had complementary port which I was extremely happy about! Sadly the Halls Gap mini-gold was closed on the Monday when we went there – I’ll have to go back to that one!

Climbing at a waterfall in the Grampians

Climbing at a waterfall in the Grampians

I’d totally recommend the Great Ocean Road as a must do on any trip to Australia.

Round the twist lighthouse

Round the twist lighthouse

Happy Christmas everyone!

We decided we should have a Christmas Special blog post, so have finally finished preparing the adventure video from our New Zealand honeymoon. There will be a more scenic video at some point too.

You can read more about our awesome honeymoon here. This time last year we celebrated our first hot Christmas with the Millis family in Wanaka, including a picnic and spot of kayaking in Lake Wanaka. Also featured in the video are sky-diving, bungee jumping, Queenstown luge, caving, sea kayaking, lake kayaking, canyoning, jet boating, cycling and of course some rock climbing!

Warning: This video contains footage of what may be considered ‘extreme’ activities. Sensitive parents may find some scenes distressing. No Shorts were harmed in the  making of this film. 

Wolgan valley

Wolgan valley

Back in October we went with the Sydney Rockies Climbing Club to the annual(ish) Sheep Roast and climbing trip in the Wolgan Valley.

On Friday night we  headed up from Sydney. The Wolgan is about 3.5-4 hours from Sydney to the north west. You go through the Blue Mountains, then on some more. Eventually you go 35km up a dead end, half gravel road which is pretty adventure like. It used to be all gravel , so we considered ourselves lucky. I was given a Wombat Guarantee for the weekend and I wasn’t disappointed. On the way up we saw 3 from the car, and then I saw another one on the first night during a trip to the loo in the dark. Sadly it was too dark for a photo.Also, they do look slightly less cute and a bit more evil in the dark! We also spotted a lot of wallabies.

The campsite was in a sort of bowl, surrounded by cliffs on most of its side, and a stream along one side which I took a couple of dips in to escape the heat. arriving in the dark and then waking up to the view on Saturday morning was cool.

Saturday we went for some climbing at the Coke Ovens. It used to be a Coke mining and production area, big around the 1950s, but its shut down since. On the walk in you go past the old coke ovens. One two pitch climb and a single pitch one. It was super hot, so we learnt a valuable lesson about making sure we take a lot of water.

Saturday morning the experts prepared the sheep on a full on spit over a fire. The spit also had a whole rump and chicken on it. Some diligent club members stayed behind all day to gradually turn and cook it. When we came back it smelt awesome! The lamb was great and the beef was even better – sooooo tender. On Sunday I stayed around the campsite relaxing and reading my book, while Matt went off on a harder climbing adventure with Paul G.

Overall an excellent weekend. We’ll be sheep roasting again next year!

Fire cooked meat

Fire cooked meat

 

Point Perpendicular and Sea Cliffs

Point Perpendicular and Sea Cliffs

After my epic work marathon, we went down the coast about 3 hours to a place called Jervis Bay for a weekend camping. The area was recommended by someone at work.

It was perfect camping weather, not too cold at night, nice and warm during the day. I was pretty paranoid about spiders and snakes in the tent, but luckily we didn’t see any.

Tourist information about the area and reports from people who’ve been there said you can see wild kangaroos all over the place, including on the beaches, which I was pretty excited about. My roo research has taught me their most active during dusk and dawn, so I was pretty excited about seeing some when I went for my early morning trip to the ladies on Saturday. Sadly, all I spotted was some roo poo and a cockatoo!

On Saturday we went to explore a lot of the local beaches and did some walks. We went to Hyams Beach, which has Guinness Book of Records certified whitest sand in the world. The water was lovely and clear, the bush went down to the beach and not only was the sand white, it was also squeaky!

Hyams Beach

Hyams Beach

About 3pm on a walk we spotted our first roo, which I think was actually a walabee. Unfortunately by the time I got my big camera out it hopped off. That night they all came out though, taking the spot count up to 11 (2 wallabees, 8 roos and a joey.) We saw two roos outside the campsite after dinner, one with a super cute joey in its pouch. Awwww! 🙂

On the Sunday we went on an early morning boat trip out into the bay. It was an ‘eco cruise” taking in some of the main sights including Point Perpendicular cliffs which hit the sea at 90 degrees, and are a good spot for climbing. We saw some climbers on the rock, which of course prompted Matts enthusiasm for a return trip! Up the coast we saw some cool caves and a seal colony. The seals all dived into the sea which was cool to watch, especially the ones which skipped out the intermediate rocks and just jumped straight in from 10m up or so!

Seal diving

Seal diving

On the boat trip we also spotted a whale. There are lots of dedicated whale watching trips you can do, but as the numbers are dropping off now we didn’t go for one of those specifically. It was really cool to see one up close, if slightly worrying sitting in the boat, knowing it dived down and waiting for it to come back up – hopefully not right under the boat!

The Jervis Bay area was really nice, especially out of peak time when it was pretty quiet. I loved seeing kangaroos in the wild and look forward to going back for the inevitable climbing trip.

 

Roos!

Roos!

Middle Cove

Middle Cove

We have a book called Sydney’s Best Harbour and Coastal Walks. A couple of weekends ago we decided it was time to try one of them out with our friends Deb and Andrew. Slightly biased, Matt picked out a walk around Middle Head. It was a 2 hourish, 5km walk, a 10 min drive from our place – with climbing!

The walk is through a nature reserve and around the banks of the scenic Middle Cove. The sign on the way in mentioned wallabies, goannas and echindas, although we didn’t see any of these unfortunately – just a whole load of noisy cockatoos.

The walk was really scenic, it even had a castle AND a bench shaped like a lizard. By the climbing were some communal BBQs, so well do back again and try those out after a spot of climbing I reckon. Considering it was late July, the height of Australian winter, we ended up walking in just our t-shirts at a toasty 19 degrees – not too bad at all!

We went back about a month later to check out the climbing, do some slack lining and have our first Australian outdoor communal BBQ with some other climbers. The climbing was OK, not great but it was a good day, specially chilling out by the barbie, Aussie style. not bad considering it was the end of winter and we mainly sat around in t-shirts!

BBQ

BBQ

Soooooooo cute

Soooooooo cute

Ever since I found out about it, I’ve been wanting to visit Australian Reptile Park. It’s about an hours drive north from our place, up towards the central coast and not near any public transport, so I’ve had to patently wait until we got a car.

Now I love reptiles, and used to have them as a pet, so this was a pretty exciting adventure for me. On top of that, the name is slightly misleading – although its focussed around reptiles, probably more than 50% of the park is for Australian wildlife and birds. This means kangeroos, koalas and of course super-cute wombats!

I had an awesome time! 🙂  Most of the day was a highlight, but here were some of the particularly awesome bits:

Patting a wombat: He was sooooooooooo cute. They are well up there with penguins in the favourite animal stakes now. so far at zoo’s I’ve only seen them asleep or with their heads buried in food bowls, so getting to squeal over how cute they were up close, AND give one a stroke was brilliant. I also managed to accost a kangeroo for a cuddle, and pat a koala too – hopefully he didn’t give me chlamydia – most of them have it you know! :-S

Reptile show: The reptile show was cool, with the worlds largest kind of gecko, a tegu, baby croc and python that nearly strangled the keeper. There were lots of other shows on throughout the day with talks from the main keeper who was a bit of a comic character! One had a rattlesnake which impressed me – the rattle was much louder than I’d have thought. (Luckily you don’t get them in Australia though).

Rattle snaaaaaaaaaaaake

Rattle snaaaaaaaaaaaake

Elvis the crocodile: Elvis is another 5 meter long ‘big boss croc’ from up in Darwin. We didn’t get to find out much about his life story like we got a Wild Life Sydney, but we did get to see him being fed chickens off a stick, which was good to watch – the bang as he snapped his jaws shut was pretty impressive, along with his jumping skills.

Elvis the Big Boss Croc

Elvis the Big Boss Croc

Tasmanian Devils: Again, we’d only seen these guys asleep before. The ones here were really active which was good to see, and we found out some more about the conservation work going on. The Tassie Devils are in danger becasue of a disease, so the Reptile park is helping support a program to breed them in captivity to ultimately make sure they don’t go extinct. I gave some money and got a badge!

Tasmanian Devil

Tasmanian Devil

Galapagos tortoise: The giant galapagos tortoise went on a walk around the park and got to have his lunch while lots of people patted him! His shell was cool, huge and nice and warm! 

Tortoise lunchtime

Tortoise lunchtime

Verdict:  This gets no less than an awesome 9.8 /10! I just had to deduct a bit becasue I can live without the spider exhibit, and they failed to provide me with a decent cup of tea! (See, I’m still British at heart!)

02. June 2013 · 1 comment · Categories: Reviews · Tags: ,
Stripey fish

Stripey fish

Now we’re living in Australia there are lots of new holiday options! One of the top places on the list is the Great Barrier Reef. Doing some diving there would be particularly cool, so we’re thinking of doing a weekend course down in Sydney so we’re ready when we get there.

Now I don’t really get on with either swimming in the sea, or being under water so I’m not convinced about diving. But the excitement of cool fish might outweigh that. I didn’t want to pay $150 or so for a diving course and hate it, so we bought a couple of snorkels to test that out first. We went down to Clovelley Beach back in April. Its near Bondi with a fairly big man made inlet, so you’re protected from the waves.

I didn’t like getting in, that was probably the worst bit, apart from general drinkingk of salt water! Right at the beginning we saw a giant Blue Grouper which was really cool. It was at least a meter long, and really very blue even in the sea. Becasue it was the first thing we didn’t get a picture of it unfortunately, but then didn’t see anything else that big!

Lots of fish

Lots of fish

The snorkelling went OK, without incident apart from Matt breaking a flipper strap. There were lots and lots of cool fish to see, and I didn’t really swallow too much water. I was surprised quite how much wildlife there was around right next to all the people swimming about. We need to go on another snorkelling adventure to try again before the diving course I think. After several practices in the swimming pool (yes!! only when nobody else was there though) I didn’t go fully underwater with my snorkel so that’s the next stage.

Byeee!

Byeee!

Overall verdict: 6/10. We saw cool stuff, but it was still a bit scary! I’ll go again though. Next time we’re going to try the underwater nature trail round the corner and hopefully see more cool things.

Taronga Zo

Taronga Zoo

 

I love animals and I generally love zoos too (as long as they have nice big enclosures).

We went recently to Taronga Zoo in Sydney which is not only a zoo, but also a good adventure, because:

  1. You go there on a ferry out across the Harbour
  2. You get to ride in (or out) on a cable car and
  3. The views back across the city to the bridge and Opera House are cool

We spent a good 5 hours there going around, and I could easily have stayed for longer. They have a wide selection of animals including a lot of native ones including the obligatory koalas, kangeroos, wallabees, wombats, emus, Tasmanian Devils, spiders (ewww) and playtpus (not sure if that’s plural?!). Sadly the penguin area was being refurbished, so none of them 🙁 It wads a bit too busy at the start but got a bit quieter once we wandered about.

I loved all the animals with the exception of the spiders which are still haunting me periodically. *Shudder*.

Here are my top 5 animals:

5.  Ecidnas. It turns out, like platypus, ecidnas are ‘monotremes’ which means they are egg laying mammals. So like the platypus they are the only kinds of animals that have eggs and milk and can (theoretically) produce their own custard! (Thanks Paul Millis!)

Echidna

Echidna

4. Seals – we caught the seal show where they do dives, jumps, flipper stands, shake hands, ‘speak’ and eat a lot of fish as rewards. Seeing them splash about was good entertainment, and they seemed to enjoy it too.

Seal jumping

Seal jumping

3. Elephants. The elephants had a couple of babies which were super sweet. We watched the keepers giving one of the little ones a shower which was just adorable. They told it ‘front foot;’ and ‘back foot’ and ‘turn’ and it even did what it was told – mainly – with some food as an added incentive.

Elephant

2. Koalas – predictable, I’m sorry, but they are properly cute. Of the 6 koalas we saw, 2 were actually awake (and eating eucalyptus) which is a good record as they spend 20 of 24 hours a day asleep.

Koala

Koala

1. The wombat! I love this not-so little fellow and took a LOT of pictures of him. Unfortunately he was munching his supper on all three times we walked past and Matt got a bit bored waiting for him to do something else. I could have watched him for ages. I really wanted to give him a big cuddle, but I don’t think he would have appreciated it really!

Wombat

Wombat

Verdict: 9/10. Could have got a 10 with some penguins, and less other people!

What are your favourite animals?

 

06. May 2013 · 2 comments · Categories: Reviews · Tags: ,

One recent Saturday, we ended up free from late afternoon, so decided to head over to Sydney Aquarium.

The aquarium is in Darling Harbour, by Madame Tussaudes and the small zoo. We had free entry with our Merlin annual passes (=bargain) and it was open until 8pm so we had plenty of time to look around.

The aquarium was pretty quiet, apart from a very large group of tourists, which were quite hard to avoid sadly!

Sydney-Aquarium1

My favourite thing was the Duck Billed Platypus. I’ve not seen one before and it looked pretty cute and weird. Did you know…(and I didn’t learn this at the aquarium, it is an obscure fact I know anyway) that the platypus is the only animal (I think, and may be wrong) which could make its own custard, because it produces both milk and eggs? Weird hey? I don’t imagine it would be very nice, and I don’t know how it would stir it with its little flippers, but there you go! The playtpus was a lot smaller than I thought, and we only saw it for a very short time before it hid away – I will be back another time to try and get a picture.

After that the sea horses were pretty cool, especially the Weedy Seahorse which looks like seaweed.They have them in the Harbour and round and about, so hopefully we will see one when we go snorkelling one day.

Being Australia, there were a lot of sharks in the underwater observatory bit, plus some dugongs, rays, cool looking fish, anenomes, crabs, lobsters, eels and a whole host of other aquatic stuff.

Overall verdict: 6.5/10. The place wasn’t massive, and with no penguins or sea turtles its only going to get a 7 at most. More platypus viewing would probably take it up to a 7.5. I need a better lens to get decent photos there too!

Fishy

Fishy

Wild Life Sydney is a small zoo right in the centre of Sydney (see here). We went a couple of weekends back to look around and bought Merlin passes on-line for $90. This gets us unlimited entry to 5 Sydney attractions and some other ones in Oz, for a whole year. Compared to $36 walk in price for the zoo and the same for many of the other attractions its a total bargain!

I love animals, so had a good time even though the zoo was only small.

Koalas

These were definitely the cutest chaps in the zoo. They were in close competition with the wombats, but they were hiding down their holes asleep so it wasn’t a fair competition.

Awwwwww

Awwwwww

Koala1

Lunch time for the koala

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Princess the Cassowary

We went to a short talk about Princess the Cassowary. Princess is a boy, but apparently a diva! The cassowary is basically like an emu or ostrich, but with better colours and a keratin (what nails are made from) bit on their head. They eat a lot of fruit, and have an evil claw which can be used to kill people! They’re pretty rare and only like in Australia and New Guinea.

Princess the (boy)  cassowary

Princess the (boy) cassowary

Reptiles

I particularly like lizards, and there were quite a few there, including a giant goanna (related to the monitor lizard).

 

A couple of unidentified lizards

They had a lot of snakes as well, big and small, poisonous and pretty ‘armless ones too.  They had an unusual one called the Hoop Snake.

Rex the Big Boss Croc

 

Rex the 'Big Boss Croc'

Rex the ‘Big Boss Croc’

We also went to a talk about Rex, who is what is known as a Big Boss Croc becasue he is huge! (700kg). Rex’s story is quite interesting. He used to live up in Darwin and ended up near a spot where lots of locals used to like picnicking and swimming. Many of them had dogs go missing. ’nuff said. The rangers decided Rex needed to be relocated as he was getting too aggressive and there was a fair risk he’d have gone for a person sooner or later. But giant crocs have really good homing instincts, so if they moved him he would have just come back.

So. Rex got caught and sent off the the Crocodile Farm. Its basically for breeding crocs, they look after them and then eventually make them into products as a way of reducing poaching. Sounded a bit dodgy to me, but apparently there are a lot of them. The idea was, in return for his food and board Rex would make new crocodile babies with the females at the farm, and pass on all his good ‘big boss croc’ genetics. Unfortunately, instead of making babies, Rex mauled all his potential girlfriends. 🙁

After a few years the farm got fed up with Rexs bad behaviour, so he ended up at Wild Life Sydney, where he lives with a few water dragons and gets fed 6 days a week (but not the day we were there).

Rex's giant body

Rex’s giant body

Verdict: 6.5/10. It was good, but only small, so worth a trip with some sort of deal ticket. Not too many scary spiders. Some of the enclosures were a bit small – I felt sorry for the kangeroos.

Last Saturday we went to my boss’s house which is north of Sydney in a place called Pymble (about 30 mins on the train). We started off the visit with our first Australian ‘barbie’. We took along and ate kangeroo burgers. They were nice, quite gamey and flavoursome. I did feel a bit bad afterwards though, as kangeroos are pretty cute.

Bobbin Head - N of Sydney

Bobbin Head – N of Sydney

After lunch we drove about 10-15 minutes from Pymble to a National Park and place called Bobbin Head. We went for a walk on the board-walk and saw lots of little crabs, living in the mangrove swamps.

Crabs in a mangrove swamp

Crabs in a mangrove swamp

From there we drove up the hill to a visitor centre where you can go on a wildlife walk. We saw bright parakeet type things.

Parroty birds

Parroty birds

More excitingly, we got really close to 2 kangeroos. One was sleeping in the grass and another one was quietly minding his own business in the trees. He stood up to get a better look at us funny British people.  When they stand up they are surprisingly big, probably taller than Matt. Eventually he hoppety hopped off.

Skippy!

Skippy!

 

After the kangeroo, on the way out, I spotted something unusual. We had a look and it turned out to be a 3m-ish long diamond python! They are pretty much harmless unless you really annoy them when they will give you a bite. It was impressively long and wide. He snaked his way along the ground and eventually curled up under a tree. To think you could just wander about in the woods (on a climbing trip, say) and come across one of those is a bit crazy!

Snaaaaaaaaaaaake!

Snaaaaaaaaaaaake!

What animals will we see next? How long before I get to see a penguin? Stay tuned!